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Alice, Mooney and Spooney in Santa Fe (Spring 2009 Meeting)

May 9, 2009

Our Santa Fe, New Mexico, meeting began with a brief talk by Theaterwork’s artistic director, David Olson, on their first performance of Lewis Carroll’s juvenile operetta La Guida di Bragia since the young Charles Lutwidge Dodgson staged it for his family. Together with LCSNA’s multi-talented Jonathan Dixon, Olson talked about the marionette play we would see in the evening: how children’s dolls, rescued from the local Goodwill store, were turned into doll puppets representing the characters of Mooney, Spooney, Sophonisba, and her husband Orlando; how they designed a stage that was a miniature theater, about six feet tall with the stage window itself about three feet high and four feet wide, with a recreation, highly carrollized, of a sitting room on the floor in front of it with miniature furniture and even a tiny tool set perhaps much like the one Lewis Carroll had made as a boy. After a hearty southwestern style lunch, we were treated to a live performance of Gerald Fried’s chamber piece “The Chess Game” for narrator, flute/piccolo, oboe (played by the composer himself), violin, cello, and piano. Fried, a composer of four symphonies and three operas, is perhaps best known for his works for film and television, including the score for Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” and many “Star Trek” episodes , including the Alice-themed “Shore Leave.” The Chess Game was a brilliant musical piece with narration of three scenes from Through the Looking-Glass: the running in-place scene, how the flowers protect themselves, and the two bumbling knights. It reminded one of us of the early 1950s Omnibus performance of Peter and the Wolf. Jonathan Dixon read the text passages introducing and separating the music, which itself was simply wonderful – its perky leitmotifs and sequences capturing in another kind of language the quirkiness and beauty of Carrroll’s text. Next, Jonathan Dixon, Andrew Ogus, and Mark Burstein treated us to an account of how the LCSNA produced a hardback book of La Guida di Bragia with illustrations by Dixon. It all started with a conversation Jonathan Dixon had with Prof. Morton N. Cohen in 1992. Cohen suggested that the society publish Carroll’s La Guida di Bragia, which had only been published once before, in the Christmas 1931 number of the British magazine The Queen. The original manuscript had been sold at Sotheby’s from a lot identified as “the property of Major C.H.W. Dodgson” on Feb. 14, 1929 and much later was bought by the American pencil magnate, Alfred Berol, who gave it to the Fales Library of New York University with the rest of his magnificent Carroll collection. Former LCSNA president Peter Heath wrote an introduction to the text which with a transcription of the play and illustrations by Jonathan Dixon was published in the Knight Letter, no. 61, Fall 1999. Some years later, Marvin Taylor at the Fales Library was able to supply us with digital copies of the pages of Carroll’s original text, which we included in our 2007 hardback edition. To conclude the meeting, LCSNA members and local attendees were treated to a private (and hilarious) performance of La Guida di Bragia. A remarkable achievement, capping off a remarkable meeting.

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May 9, 2009
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